Attorney Convicted of Bribery Conspiracy Indefinitely Suspended
The Ohio Supreme Court today indefinitely suspended a Strongsville attorney convicted of felonies for his role in a bribery scheme involving prominent Cleveland attorney Anthony Calabrese III, who was disbarred and is serving a nine-year federal prison sentence for bribery.
The Court voted 4-3 to indefinitely suspend Marc G. Doumbas with the majority agreeing to credit him with time served under an interim suspension issued by the Court in January 2014. The per curiam opinion stated the suspension was issued based on Doumbas’s conviction for two felony bribery accounts, which he unsuccessfully appealed in state court and has informed the Court he intends to contest in federal court.
Conviction Based on Bribery Complicity
Ohio Disciplinary Counsel charged Doumbas with two violations of the rules governing Ohio attorneys that prohibit lawyers from committing illegal acts and engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Doumbas and G. Timothy Marshall represented Thomas Castro in a criminal proceeding in which Castro was charged with rape. Calabrese was Castro’s business attorney. Castro agreed to plead guilty to two counts of sexual battery, and before his sentencing, Doumbas and Marshall discussed the need to assemble information to request a sentence that would include no prison time for Castro.
Marshall and Calabrese offered substantial payments to Castro’s two sexual-assault victims as “civil settlements” in an attempt to show the court Castro had made restitution for his criminal conduct. In exchange, the men asked the victims to make requests that the sentencing judge not impose jail time on Castro.
“Although there was no evidence that Doumbas had directly promised, offered, or given anything of value to the witnesses, the state alleged that he had been aware that Marshall and Calabrese had made or intended to make the settlement proposals and he had shared Castro, Marshall, and Calabrese’s criminal intents, and therefore, the state alleged, he was complicit in bribery,” the opinion stated.
Doumbas was convicted of two third-degree felony counts, sentenced to two concurrent one-year prison terms, and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and court costs. He completed his prison sentence, but as of his June 2016 Board of Professional Conduct hearing, he had not paid any of the $12,500 total in fines and costs.
The Eighth District Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction in 2015 and refused his requests to reopen his appeal.
Attorney’s Post-Conviction Behavior Impacts Sanction
In developing a recommended sanction the board considers aggravating circumstances and mitigating factors. The board noted Doumbas’ desire to demonstrate to the judge that Castro compensated his victims for the harm they suffered. However, the board concluded that any reasonable lawyer would have recognized the risk that making such a settlement offer could be interpreted as an attempt to influence the victims’ statements at the perpetrator’s sentencing hearing.
While Doumbas might not have directly engaged the victims, the board found as Castro’s trial attorney, Doumbas must be held accountable for the negotiations he left to the discretion of Marshall and Calabrese and the harm they produced, the opinion stated. The board also noted that Doumbas denied any criminal wrongdoing at his trial and in the disciplinary hearings, and that he has offered no justification for the failure to pay his criminal fine or court costs other than stating his intent to further fight his conviction in federal court.
The board also recognized that Doumbas had no prior discipline, served his prison time, and demonstrated a cooperative attitude toward the disciplinary proceedings. He also produced six letters of good character, including two from judges, and one of his clients testified that Doumbas satisfactorily handled 25 cases for him and his family over the years, and that he would employ him again should Doumbas be reinstated. The board also found Doumbas to be “contrite and remorseful” and unlikely to engage in similar conduct in the future.
The Court agreed with the board’s recommendation to indefinitely suspend Doumbas and grant him credit for time served. If Doumbas files for reinstatement, the Court required that he must submit proof he has fully paid his criminal fine and court costs as well as the costs for his disciplinary proceedings.
Justices Judith L. French, William M. O’Neill, Patrick F. Fischer, and R. Patrick DeWine joined the opinion.Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Sharon L. Kennedy dissented, indicating they would not grant Doumbas time served under suspension.
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